Coaches urge tougher AFL stance on drugs

Melbourne coach Paul Roos and Collingwood counterpart Nathan Buckley have joined the growing chorus of calls for an overhaul of the AFL’s three-strikes illicit drugs policy.

The league’s illicit drug code, which is separate from the one covering performance-enhancing substances, currently results in players being suspended only after a third failed drug test.

Before a third strike is registered, players receive private counselling and treatment, but that approach has recently drawn criticism for being too lenient.

“Would the AFL say that you can steal a car once and you can steal a car twice, but on the third time you steal a car we’re actually going to (do something?),” Roos said on Tuesday.

“It just doesn’t make sense. It’s illogical to me that you can promote something that’s illegal.

“I understand the logic behind what the AFL are (trying to do), and I’m supportive of that, but you wouldn’t let anyone rob a bank three times.”

Roos said it was time to stop referring to drugs as illicit, party or recreational substances.

“Until we refer to them as illegal drugs, and we start to really push that line, I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere as a society or as a league,” he said.

“We’ll just keep banging our heads against the wall.”

Buckley believes it’s “pretty clear” that the AFL is losing the battle against drugs with the current approach.

AFL clubs aren’t notified of a first or second strike recorded by one of their players under the system, which the Pies’ coach said was a major flaw.

“The clubs need to have more information to be able to support their playing groups and to hold them to account with their behaviour on and off the field,” Buckley said.

“We need to have that opportunity and we need to be trusted with that because we care about our players, we care about their opportunity at our football club and their growth as people as well.

“(The current policy) was primarily designed as a welfare program, a catch-and-release type of system, but whether that’s in the best interests of the players … I think that’s what a review needs to look at.”

AAP jp/gc

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